Labyrinths: an exercise in unconditional love
“This is how our culture sees things: you’re in a place full of tricks and blind alleys, but if you’re clever enough, you’ll “solve” it and get out.
That’s not what a labyrinth is. It’s a path you walk as a kind of meditative practice. You could walk out of it at any time, but you follow the patterns at your feet while releasing the patterns in your mind.
Walking labyrinths is an ancient custom. Now I know why. I’ve walked my own labyrinth .. and its curving lines have taken me straight to the truth about the way I live my life.”
– Martha Beck
This is what I love best about labyrinths: They engage mind, body and spirit at the same time. They have ancient, mystical origins. They are universal over time and space. And they emerge in all kinds of different forms to intrigue and bring peace to people, regardless of their beliefs, their origin, their history or their intentions. It seems such an unconditional love to me. And I cannot but respond to it.
Any kind of meditation will give you an opportunity to suspend the world from the agenda for the time it takes to complete the meditation, and will offer you a broader understanding of yourself and your place in the world. It is a process that can help you find clarity, and inner peace that transcends that of the world.
Labyrinths do all that, and more. You engage all of you: your body, together with your mind, as well as your spirit if you allow it. When you walk a labyrinth, you are physically walking a metaphor for your life journey to the centre of yourself (your core), and back out to the world with that gift of your expanded self to offer the world.
The history of labyrinths is ancient. First traces of labyrinths and their use go back more than 4 000 years. There are pictograms of labyrinths carved on ancient stones in Spain, in South America, in India, but no-one knows where they originated with any certainty and that contributes to the mystery surrounding labyrinths.
It is this mystery that is so intriguing to the modern labyrinth walker who often seeks meaning and depth in a world focused on the shallow, a world where spirituality has changed so much in our time.
There are labyrinths in churches, such as the famous one in Chartres Cathedral. There are outdoor ones that have existed for ages. There are modern ones springing up everywhere, all over the world. And there are temporary ones, that can be put up anywhere.
They come in all kinds of designs too. Some follow the seed pattern, others the Chartres design. Some are entirely new, such as a heart design labyrinth.
What is true about all labyrinths, though, is that they have a single, unobstructed path that runs from the outside to the inside.
This is unlike a maze, which has dead ends and wrong choices designed to trick the mind.
A labyrinth has many twists and turns, but no dead ends. No wrong choices. Merely an opportunity to change direction or “turn”, as the path presents that to us.
You can see that the path to the centre is not hidden if you just look at the labyrinth, although, when you walk it, the centre sometimes seems closer, sometimes further away from you. But there are no tricks.
We could say that a labyrinth is an archetype for our life journey which often seems chaotic, or puzzling, but forms a meaningful pattern if we endure till the end. If we keep walking, we will get to the centre and out again, even if the path presents us with twists and turns. This is true of labyrinths, and of life.
There is no right way to walk a labyrinth. Just ways that other people have found useful. That means that you do not need a facilitator to guide you on any labyrinth walk, although at times that can add a layer of meaning you can use to expand your own practice. In this too, the labyrinth is a metaphor for life.
What is most important to me, whether you walk alone, with a facilitator, or with a group, is that you trust yourself in this as in every experience; that you listen to your body and your heart; and that you believe that you know a way to make this meaningful to you. You have the answers you seek within you: in the labyrinth, as well in life.
Why walk a labyrinth?
Find a pattern in chaos
Create a space for answers to come to you
Moving meditation as an alternative to sitting still while praying or meditating
Look for metaphors on the walk for things that are happening in your life
Deal with powerful emotions
Walking a labyrinth on your own:
Sign up for my newsletter (see sidebar on the right), and receive my free “PACE” guide to a basic labyrinth walk.
Walking a labyrinth with a facilitator:
If you are signed up for my newsletter you will receive information about facilitated walks, or you can invite me to do one near you. I also use labyrinths as one more vantage point for my coaching clients from where they can learn and observe in the process of finding their own way.
Some recent group labyrinth walks:
And here are some children who approached the whole thing on a much lighter note!
Create your own labyrinth
If you’d like to create your own labyrinth, feel free to download these instructions for creating your own labyrinth (PDF file), that will show you one way of creating a temporary labyrinth on grass. Of course you could make the labyrinth more permanent easily by demarcating the curves with something more permanent such as bricks or pot plants.
Patterns in labyrinth walking
Watching this speeded-up video gives an overview of a mass labyrinth walk that makes apparent the patterns in seeming chaos.
Apt information for any labyrinth walk. Apt for life.
What inner chaos can you walk out in a labyrinth?